How to establish good sleeping habits for your newborn
Here are some tips to help you create a good sleep routine for your new baby.
The biggest issue that most parents worry about even before the birth of their new baby is probably the fact that sleep will become a 'rare commodity;. We all hear horror stories of parents who are so tired that it affects their health, their work performance and even the ability to complete simple daily tasks.
To help minimize the effect that a newborn’s sleep pattern may have on you (and believe us, it will have an effect on you new parents out there!), here are some tips to help you create a good sleep routine for your new baby.
Accept that there will be an adjustment period
All new parents should understand that in the initial period of at least 1 to 2 months, the newborn will have no concept of day or night. Also, even though new babies require nothing more than milk and sleep for the first few weeks, their intermittent sleep may cause agony to parents who would have to wake every 3 to 4 hours every night to feed the baby.
While there is little that can be done regarding the baby’s instinctive needs, you can help illustrate the difference of day and night by interacting with your baby more during the day, and limiting stimulation at night. This simple habit aids babies in understanding that day is the time for noisy stimulating activities, while night is for resting and quiet time.
Limit contact during the night
If it is acceptable to you, you can also choose to minimize contact with your baby at night to help build their independence.
A newborn can (and will) easily fall asleep most of the time due to their need for rest, and if we avoid repeating certain habits to “help” them, they will slowly be able to associate the lack of interaction with others (especially you) with bedtime.
Habits like rocking, cradling and giving them milk to help them get to sleep might only make them rely on these forms of comfort in order to fall asleep. Avoiding them will prevent the forming of bad – and very hard to quit – sleep habits down the road.
Take note though that the results of these practices will not be experienced immediately, but will definitely be seen later on. They will also help further down the road, when your child's separation anxiety kicks in at about 9 months old.
Take the cycle into your own hands
If your newborn happens to be one of those babies who love to sleep all day and are awake all night – just like the way my boy was – then some “crisis control” is necessary. Here are some simple steps in helping your baby sleep normally at night:
• Stimulate your baby by talking and playing with him during the day and try to limit his nap to no more than 2 hours. This will hopefully tire him out sufficiently by sunset and he will sleep through most of the night, only waking up for milk and then promptly falling back asleep again.
After a few days of repeating this, your newborn will probably be accustomed to sleeping longer hours at night instead of during the day.
• Use comforting techniques such as baby massage or lullabies to soothe him to sleep at night. Make sure it is a routine that takes no more than 15 minutes. Otherwise, your little one may want you to continue it throughout the night and you can say goodbye to your own much-needed sleep!
• Place your baby in a noisy daytime environment such as the living room to help prevent him from oversleeping. At night, put him to sleep in a quiet and dimly lit room where there are minimal disturbances/distractions. This also adheres to the “day and night” cycle that was mentioned earlier.
The most important key in creating a good sleep routine is that it must be consistent, especially in the first few months. Once you have the routine down pat, your baby will most likely be more adaptable to slight adjustments, such as a slightly later bedtime.
If you choose to let your baby learn to comfort himself and settle down to sleep, there will definitely be some uncomfortable moments when your baby has difficulty self-soothing and you may be tempted to help him out. Learn to 'ride it out' though, and let him try comforting himself.
Some people call this the 'cry it out method.' It may be hard to hear your baby cry as he tries to soothe himself to sleep, but some parents believe that it helps to foster independence later on.
Take note that it is also very important to praise your baby for his efforts in falling asleep alone. This will help build his confidence and encourage him to try again the following night.
Once your child is older, try to also explain that sleeping soundly at night is very important and that a good night's rest will help him to grow up big and strong.
Establishing good sleeping habits for your newborn may be challenging at first but once you've gotten the hang of it both you and your baby will be all the better for it — and sleep more soundly too!
What do you do to encourage good sleeping habits for your newborn? Let us know by leaving a comment below!